Why I sympathize with Adamawa State By Dr Nura Alkali

“The problem of Adamawa State is the Fulani man. Within the Fulani, the problem is the Yola Fulani. We the Yola Fulani hate the Mayo Belwa Fulani . . . and they hate us too. We do not understand living with other tribes. . . .”  
So begins a recent public speech by Dr. Umar Bindir, the Secretary to the Adamawa State Government. A Fulani himself, Bindir (whose ancestors had migrated from what is now Chad) dazzled his audience with tales of a recent epiphany opening his eyes to the Fulani problem in Adamawa. Expectedly, his speech caused a stir on social media, where angry indigenes of Yola demanded a retraction and apology, to which Bindir replied he did no wrong in a series of Facebook comments – thereby earning more critics for himself and the Adamawa State Goverment.    
I was initially shocked that my SSG would utter such rubbish about my townsfolk in public, but that soon gave way to sympathy for Adamawa State, whose people now pay the price for desiring change in 2015. It was clear to me that Bindir didn’t make the statement out of ignorance. He had studied and lived in the United Kingdom where similar statements would earn him a sack from office, a prosecution for hate speech, and up to seven years jail term. But this is Nigeria, where it is normal for public officials to promote ethnic bigotry for political gain. In Adamawa State especially, vilify the Fulani and you are instantly the hero of other ethnic groups.      
Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) considers racial and ethnic discrimination as an “offence to human dignity”, a violation of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights, and a threat to peace and security, while Article 4 requires states to declare an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial hatred and incitement to racial discrimination. Since Nigeria is a signatory to the ICERD, the claim that “the Fulani are the problem of Adamawa State” is incitement to racial discrimination, regardless of whether Bindir is Fulani or not. 
The legal implications aside, how true were Bindir’s claims? In my opinion, the term “Yola Fulani” is a meaningless jargon which Dr. Bindir coined to impress his benefactors. Yola was founded in 1841 by Modibbo Adama, who until then had governed his Emirate for 36 years in Gurin and Ribadu, both now located in Fufore LGA. Since Yola was a new town, Modibbo Adama could not have relocated there alone, and must have moved along with many residents of Gurin and Ribadu. As an administrative capital, Yola also attracted scholars, traders and artisans from other districts, and even from outside Adamawa. For instance, it was scholarship which brought my great-great-grandfather Alkali Hammanjoda to Yola in the 1870s. In short, except for the descendants of Modibbo Adama (the Lamido’s clan) whose ancestral village Wuro Chekke has now merged with Yola, it is now hard to find a “Yola Fulani” whose ancestors were indigenous to the Yola area before 1841. So, was Bindir referring to the Lamido’s clan with the term “Yola Fulani”?    
My mother’s family in Yola came from Malabu, also now in Fufore LGA. Though they have lived in Yola for a century now, other members still live in Malabu, while some have kept homes in both Yola and Malabu. Going by Bindir’s claim, my Yola uncles now hate their cousins who are not “Yola Fulani”. What a tragedy for my mother’s family, who fortunately are not alone! Most of my peers in Yola must also hate their relatives in Jada, Mayo Belwa and Song since they didn’t move to Yola to become “Yola Fulani”. Though a former president started this trend of PhD-holders propounding reprehensible theories, I’m still mystified that my own townsman will toe the same line. 
As for the claim that the people of Yola are intolerant of other tribes, I need not go farther than the 2015 elections, which saw Bindir’s boss Governor Bindowo Jibrilla (of the Njayi ethnic group of Mubi) defeating both Nuhu Ribadu and Dr. Ahmed Modibbo – a Yola Fulani and Ribadu -Yola Fulani – with wide margins in both Yola North and Yola South LGAs. I can’t find a better proof that Dr. Bindir has falsely charged the Fulani of Yola with ethnic intolerance. 
To sum it up, Bindir’s statement should be seen for what it is: the desperate antics of a political appointee willing to curry favour with his boss and minority ethnic groups through naked condescension, self-contempt and lies. Bindir obviously didn’t care that his statement could cause inter-ethnic disharmony in Adamawa State, or that it constitutes hate speech in contravention of the ICERD Charter and other national and international statutes. But others and I who care have reported him to the National Human Rights Commission.  
Dr. Nura H. Alkali is the Chief Consultant Neurologist, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi nalkali@yahoo.com


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